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WORLD WAR HULKS (revisited) —“Gamma glutton finds love strongest there is”

Writer: Jeph Loeb

Artists: Ed McGuinness and guest stars

Marvel Comics, 2010

HERE A HULK THERE A HULK everywhere a hulk hulk. The collected HULK, VOLUME 6: WORLD WAR HULKS starts with ultra-cool renditions of Thor, the Thing, X-Men (and women), and Spider-Man beefed up on gamma rays, stronger and dumber than ever, all eager to give a good beating to the Red Hulk, who is the star in this Hulk series from 2010. The sixth volume completes the two-year inaugural Red Hulk story, collecting issues 22-24, finally exposing who it is, who did it, and eventually where it goes. A good summary for a wild ride.

When the Red She-Hulk shows up to finish the Red Hulk, it looks like she, and not he is strongest. Everybody seems to love Red She-Hulk, as I did on first blush, something familiar about her.

Then the first, original and sensational She-Hulk shows up to remind us who is really strongest.

Then the original green hulk shows up, too, for an epic contest that rates up there with any of the giant confrontations, this one expertly coupled with dialogue inside the mind of each Hulk, one red and one green, after we know who they are and why they fight. The artwork pops.

Penciler Ed McGuinness, inker Mark Farmer, and a host of stellar guest artists, including many personal favorites, rock these pages. Fighting hulks of all hues and genders and godlike proportions jump into three dimensions like movie stills spattered in fire and fury.

In the middle a quiet interlude reruns the Hulk origin inside the experience of the Hulk’s arch-nemesis, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross. The retrospective explains General Ross’s perspective for the first time, making him utterly convincing. I was glued to the page.

It’s like, sure the original Hulk was generated into existence by an idle thought in the shower one morning as Stan Lee or Jack Kirby or somebody else soaped his ears, yet eventually later artists grasping the theme think about it again and flush genuine life into the experience of the monster in view. Masterful artists have taken many of our heroes first formed to define an attitude or a confrontation, and gradually made them seem human: much like the ancient Indian stories of Rama, once one thinks about it, starting with a powerful, impossible premise of a god, and then generating tales about him strolling and playing a flute. In the Red Hulk story, writer Jeph Loeb gives General Ross flesh so he steps from a mere caricature into a real character.

Modern relativism reminds us to pay attention to diverse points of view, so even enemies start to look interesting. You want to dominate the universe? Yes, but what do you really want? What does a god, or our own gods of power in real life, propose and dispose? Many stories explore these themes from the side of the bad guys, like Mongols with wives waiting at home. The back story here exploring the side of the evildoers feels genuine, too, even intriguing, bringing together a collection of the Hulk’s classic brainy foes, including the Leader, M.O.D.O.K., the Thinker, and the Wizard.

As a wrap, the real Hulk shows up at the end, at least I think it’s the real Hulk this time amidst all the imposters. The red guy finds other work, and puny Banner gets a new role.

Eventually, some wannabe writer and artist team standing in the shower will remember the Red She Hulk and wonder where she is, and want to fill in her story. Maybe they did already. I like to imagine her strolling hand in hand with a slender blue guy playing a flute, happy at last, before the big green guy bounces in to find her.